I LOVE reading and have for as long as I can remember. When I think back to learning how to read, I think of my favorite childhood books and sitting with my parents while they read them to me over and over again. I think about trips to the downtown San Antonio library during summer breaks with my dad. I think about various book series that ended too soon and left me feeling like I lost a friend. I think about the smell of new books.
I realize that not everyone shares this love, but I think we can all agree that reading is an essential life skill. You may have some feelings attached to the memories of learning to read. For some, those memories are positive and for others those memories are painful. As someone who taught first grade for seven years and is moving into a reading interventionist role, I have seen a wide spectrum of beginning readers. Every child is different and you could run into obstacles that you don’t anticipate. But ultimately, as parents, we can try to make reading an enjoyable experience. Research shows that early exposure to words and books, plus family engagement, will set your little one(s) up for success.
Here are 8 ways to encourage reading in young children:
- Make reading a part of your daily routine. For my 3 year old, reading books is a part of his bedtime routine. We read two (short books) a night and established this routine when he was just a baby. When he was one, he would be his busy self while I read aloud. It didn’t always feel productive but it has always been a part of our routine. This has helped him expect and look forward to this time together. If bedtime is crazy for you, plug this routine into a different part of your day that works best for you. Consistency is key.
- Point out environmental print when you are out and about. When you are running errands, point out signs to your child(ren) and read them out loud. The grocery store and favorite restaurants are a great place to start.
- Take your child to the library. Consider what your child is interested in and help them find books about their favorite topics. If they want to learn a new skill, find a book that connects to that skill so that you can talk about how books help you learn new things. Many libraries have scheduled story times and reading incentive programs as well.
- Keep books in different areas of your home and switch them up every once in awhile. We keep a bucket of books in our son’s bedroom, the living room, and his bathroom (hello, potty training!). This provides many opportunities for your little one to grab a book.
- Let them read the same book over and over again. I’ll admit, this one is hard for me. Even though I already confessed to loving this as a kid, as an adult I get bored reading the same book. But if your child has a favorite book, you definitely want to nurture that love. Not only does it create a warm and pleasant experience for your child, they will also want to retell this book that they know so well. Even though they aren’t reading the book word for word, retelling is an early reading skill!
- Make real life connections to books. Will there be a new baby in the family? Read a big brother/sister book. Going on a trip? Read a book where the characters travel to a new place. Does your child like to help you in the kitchen? Read a recipe book. You can help make books relevant to their little lives and encourage conversation.
- Let them see YOU reading. The best way to give value to any practice is to model. Use “monkey see, monkey do” to your advantage!
- Start early! Seriously, you can’t start too early. If you’re pregnant or have baby, you can read to your little one. If you have a wild toddler that never sits still, you can read to them too. All of these stages will look different, but try to go with the flow and not expect more than what is developmentally appropriate. Your investment is worth it in the long run.
Regardless of your feelings towards learning to read, if you’re reading this blog, then you are a reader. Your child will be a reader one day too.
Are there any tips that you would add to this list? Please share!